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American Indian Center director announces intention to resign

“I was going to have to pay three employees and myself on a salary budget of $150,000,” director Larry Chavis said.


Larry Chavis, director of the American Indian Center, announces his intent to resign from his role at the Faculty Council meeting on Friday, March 19, 2021. 

American Indian Center director Larry Chavis announced his intent to resign from his director role at Friday’s Faculty Council meeting.

After UNC leaders gave updates on the state of the budget, Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman opened the floor for questions. Chavis — who said he did not originally intend to speak at the meeting — said he was provoked by Provost Bob Blouin's comments on the underfunding of campus-community engagement centers. 

"There were some inferences that these centers were reduced in their funding allocation, significantly reduced to the point that they were not functioning properly," Blouin said.

Blouin said the centers did not experience a “draconian” reduction in their budgets, and that the budgets of all the centers were restored to their pre-COVID budget allocation. Chavis reaffirmed his statements from February's meeting regarding how underfunded the AIC is and how underpaid his staff are. 

“I was going to have to pay three employees and myself on a salary budget of $150,000,” Chavis said.  

While Chavis said the AIC received $200,000 for the upcoming year and there would be no layoffs, he expressed concerns about the center’s long-term future. 

Friday’s meeting opened the floor to faculty questions and concerns about UNC’s budget and endowment. Other topics of discussion included vaccine updates and the upcoming commencement.

The meeting opened with the general faculty unanimously passing a resolution in support of the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The resolution read: 

"As scholars committed to the common welfare of our campus community, we support and affirm our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students and colleagues, both faculty and staff, at a time when these groups are being targeted by violent acts and hateful rhetoric. We denounce such words and actions wherever and whenever they occur."

‘We haven’t been seen’

Chavis prefaced his statements by saying he is a fixed-term professor whose contract will end by June 30. 

“I don’t get my power from UNC, I get my power from the tribal members of North Carolina that I represent across the state,” Chavis said. 

Chavis said he received a lot of feedback after his question at the last faculty meeting, concerning the lack of financial support for the AIC. According to Chavis, one faculty member told him that they felt seen after Chavis spoke for them in those moments. 

“We haven’t been seen in these places and this is our space, all of North Carolina is still our space,” Chavis said. 

Chavis read out a message from a Lumbee and Coharie student, which expressed gratitude for his work.

“‘I truly look up to people like you who fight so hard for all of us and have been successful despite the obstacles,’” Chavis read. “‘It’s my biggest motivation to continue going and hopefully I can be able to do the same when it’s time. Thank you again for everything.’”

Chavis said he will step down as director of the AIC starting this summer. 

“I will stop there before I lose my job completely before I find a new one, though I did have an interview with a recruiter last night," Chavis said. "So thank God for that.” 

In response to Chavis’ comments, Chapman said that, while she was not sure how to respond, she understood that the situation is a very painful one. 

“I think many of us appreciate your work and appreciate the work of the American Indian Center, and value its presence on our campus," Chapman said. "I am now going to turn now to our next agenda item."

Updates on UNC’s budget

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As soon as UNC’s budget is relaunched, the Valuing Inclusion To Attain Excellence hiring program will resume, Provost Bob Blouin said. The program has been one of the most important mechanisms by which the University has diversified, Blouin said, and the VITAE hiring program is only on a temporary pause.

Regarding campus cultural centers, the University will go through a strategic planning process, making sure the mission, goals and expectations of these centers align with campus needs, Blouin said. In this process, he said there will be an opportunity to recalibrate the budget to ensure the centers are properly funded. 

“We also anticipate that there will be a reexamination of the expectations of center directors, particularly as it relates to the roles of grant and contract writing,” Blouin said. 

Nate Knuffman, the new vice chancellor of finance, gave an update on budget plans and fiscal challenges at UNC. 

  • UNC has a structural shortfall of $100 million this fiscal year, revenue losses of up to $200 million due to COVID-19 and a deferred maintenance need estimated at $850 million and growing.
  • There will be a 1.5 percent reduction in personnel and a 7.5 percent reduction in operating funds for the current fiscal year and the 2022 fiscal year, in order to balance the budget by June 30, 2022, at the latest.
  • UNC will receive $45 million of federal funding to help with the impact of COVID-19, which is to be split evenly between direct student aid and institutional needs. 

UNC endowment fund

John Townsend, chairperson of the UNC-Chapel Hill Endowment Fund Board, said he wanted to clear up common misconceptions about the endowment fund in the meeting.

“One of the common, common misperceptions is that the endowment is just a big bucket of money — in this case, $5 billion plus — sloshing around, all of which is unrestricted and available to be spent," Townsend said. "And that’s just not the case."

The endowment is almost entirely composed of thousands of individual accounts, established by donors to fund professorships, scholarships, fellowships and other programs and initiatives, Townsend said.

“More than 92 percent of those assets are restricted by their terms, established at the time the gift was made,” Townsend said. “For example, if you have a Kenan professorship, the endowment that was established,  whenever that was, supports that professorship. That can only be used for that purpose.” 

Other topics

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced details about a potentially earlier eligibility date for Group Four vaccinations, which will probably be released Monday.

The next Faculty Council meeting will be held on April 16.